Rome's Ryder Cup hits rough patch
ROME -- The future of the 2022 Ryder Cup in Rome has been thrown into question this week as organisers were told that the president of the Italian Senate had removed an amendment to a bill that would have provided the tournament with a financial guarantee of 97 million euros. However, should this decision indeed impact on the future of the biennial showdown, it could prove to be short-sighted, as recent history suggests that the Ryder Cup remains a profitable beast.
As with any major sporting event, this form of governmental guarantee is one of the essential conditions to organise what is considered to be the world’s premier golfing event. The 2022 edition of the Ryder Cup is due to be held at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, which lies just outside the Eternal City.
As reported in the Italian Insider, Italy’s Finance committee had earlier approved the amendment with backing from the Minister of Sport, Luca Lotti and the funding had been expected to pass through the Senate with a minimum of fuss. Despite this overwhelming confidence, in an interesting turn of events, Senate President Pietro Grasso said that the funding was unrelated to the legislation it was linked with and could therefore not be accepted.
Far from being a harbinger of doom however, Grassi’s colleague and President of the culture and sport committee, Andrea Marcucci was quick to play down the significance of the senatorial decision.
“The Ryder Cup is, and remains, a great opportunity for the country,” said Marcucci in quotes published on the Italian Senate’s official website.
"President Grasso's decision is a technical one, it is not about the content of the amendment,” he added. “I hope the government can quickly find a solution that meets the requirements of the organisers. I want to remind everyone that this international competition brings with it considerable economic benefits and television rights.”
It must be said that Mr Marcucci raises a fundamental question regarding the economic benefits of hosting a golf event on the grandest stage. Recently, Rome was in the news for withdrawing its bid for the Olympics, another international sporting event which sees a pilgrimage of fans from across the world.
At the time of the announcement Mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi commented, "In light of the data we have, these Olympics are not sustainable. They will bring only debt. We don't want sports to become another pretext for more cement foundations in the city. We won't allow it. This city is unlivable.”
Raggi’s claim that instead of assigning billions of euros to an Olympic bid, it might be a more prescient decision to attempt to combat Rome’s social and environmental issues may well prove to be correct. However, the Ryder Cup is a completely different proposition and can not be allowed to be struck off in a similar manner.
Research conducted in the aftermath of the 2014 Ryder Cup, hosted by Gleneagles Golf Club in rural Scotland, concluded that the biennial competition had raised over £106 million for the wider area from just three days of competitive golf. The Scottish staging has been viewed as one of the most successful in the history of the Ryder Cup and attracted more than 63,000 fans.
A similar story could be seen in the months after the event was held at the Celtic Manor resort in South Wales in 2010. An economic survey conducted by the Welsh government, which took into consideration money spent both on and off the site including accommodation and travel around the local area, concluded that the golfing celebration was worth £82.4 to the region.
At the time the then European Ryder Cup director Richard Hills commented that such "deliver considerable direct and indirect benefits to the host nation and venue."
It is by no means disrespectful to the county of Perthshire and the Gleneagles resort or indeed the picturesque valleys of South Wales to suggest that Rome and the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club might be a more enticing prospect for golf fans during the early autumn season, when the Ryder Cup is traditionally staged.
In general the event draws an international crowd with 22% of fans flying to Scotland from overseas in 2014 and with this in mind, Rome could offer one of the most popular destinations for any Ryder Cup match. On this occasion, whether linked or not, it might be wise to offer funding first and ask questions later. When in Rome…